If you are pondering this question, you are probably in a stage of your career development where knowing how networking functions will definitely help your long-term career exploration. To me, networking was a complete unknown before my studies in the MMS program. Now after three terms are over, I have formed my own definition of networking and witnessed the power it can have in my job hunting.

Networking to me, is the practice of making interpersonal connections and building professional relationships. From the start of the program, MMS provided me with the right tools and abundant resources to understand and perfect my networking skills.

Demystifying networking

“Networking is not about asking for a job from the person you try to make a connection with, but about learning about the professions.”

This point is emphasized multiple times by career coaches in the seminars and workshops our class has. Networking, at least at the beginning stage, is about getting to know the people’s jobs and learning their industry insights. It is an early process of exploring job opportunities by connecting with people you want to know on a professional level.

Knowing that it’s a lower pressure situation than an interview enables my conversation with the person to run smoothly and prevents me from having to be too pushy. For example, I initiated several informational interviews (phone/Skype conversations aimed at building the relationship and learning about the job and company) through email requests. I used the Fuqua alumni database and found four MMS alumni who worked in the companies I was about to interview with. Because of those phone conversations with alumni, I acquired important tips on how to prepare for the interviews. While networking does not guarantee a job, it certainly helped me land some interviews.

Networking is about practice, practice and more practice

I remember feeling nervous while I sent out my first couple of networking emails and also a little bit awkward when speaking with alumni over the phone. Now after five months of practice, I improved a lot—not only being more poised when speaking with alumni but also knowing how I can make the networking conversation more efficient. The simple truth to making progress in perfecting one’s networking skills is practice and learning from the mistakes.

I used to have a tendency to listen a lot and speak less while talking with alumni. I thought that it showed I was interested in their jobs. It was not until I spoke with my career coach, Helen Crompton, that I realized I needed to speak more about myself during these conversations. This feedback was instrumental because letting alumni know more about me and my interest in the job may lead to referrals in the end. After making changes accordingly, I found my networking was more efficient because I eventually got referrals from the alumni. Even though there is no standard for what good networking practices consist of, constructive feedback from a career coach and continuous practice results in improvement and increased confidence.

Finally, I am so grateful for my career coaches because of their help in all my networking processes. One of them is Helen. She and I both have a degree in geography, which probably made me feel closer to her from the start. She keeps giving me encouragement, assurance and compliments as I progress towards landing and preparing for interviews with a bulk bracket investment bank. She is also quick and responsive in giving advice and putting me in contact with alumni she used to coach who might assist me during my process. Another career coach, Bonnie Liu, has been helpful in editing my Chinese resume and giving me information about the job market in China.

Overall, I am still practicing networking and I believe the benefit of it will extend beyond the 10-month MMS program.